Hemp clothing could be the sustainability hero for promotion

Hemp clothing could be the sustainability hero for promotion

Zafer Estill was one of the few people ready to usher in the era of hemp fiber – four years before the 2018 Farm Bill legalized commercial cultivation in the United States. Her adventurous spirit, passion for fashion, and for making the Earth greener inspired Zafer, a recent high school graduate from small town Pittsboro, North Carolina, to start the sustainable hemp clothing company Hempsmith.

In 2016, before seeing his business emerge from the start-up phase, Zafer Estill died at the age of 19. But his younger brother, Arlo, continued his mission by taking over the business when he was just 17 years old.

While studying textiles and ultimately graduating in 2020 from North Carolina State University — the Southeast’s #1 college for entrepreneurship programs — Arlo built Hempsmith’s showcase. The brand now reaches a nationwide and thriving audience in Pittsboro, where employees screen-print and tie-dye garments made from virgin hemp. With a large target audience of “fresh out of college” young adults, the brand shows just how much younger generations value sustainable retailers.

Sustainable hemp clothing brand, Hempsmith, provides custom-dyed and branded clothing like this Indigo Tie Dye Tool t-shirt. (Courtesy of Hempsmithclothing.com)

“We are here to be a real example, to demonstrate this new way of being and to show how this new material could really help change the world,” said Arlo Estill, CEO of Hempsmith.

Demand for hemp fiber, celebrated for its durable and antimicrobial properties, had increased in recent years, both on sale and beyond. COVID-19 stressors have put a damper on production — a global shortage of hemp yarn during the pandemic left many in a pickle for a few months, according to promotion suppliers. However, once the shortage ended, demand picked up where it left off, and the hemp revolution that Zafer and other farmers predicted nearly a decade ago is in full swing.

Arlo Estill“Because textiles and synthetic fibers are no good, and microplastics are filling the ocean because they don’t degrade, we need to change that fundamentally. Hemp is also going to play an important role in mitigating the climate crisis because it grows so quickly and can sequester carbon. Arlo Estill, hemp smith

“What we’re seeing with hemp shirts is almost like an industrial revolution,” said Glen Brumer, sales manager of Hauppage, New York-based supplier Royal Apparel (asi/83731), which has tees organic hemp among its offerings. “While cannabis and CBD companies have emerged, where years ago they didn’t really exist, there is this whole new industry. There are trade shows for it and there are all kinds of products with CBD, connecting to a bunch of industries.

A growing market

The global hemp fiber market was valued at $4.46 billion in 2021, according to a report by Verified Market Research, and it is expected to reach $43.75 billion by 2030, with a growth rate of 33 % from 2022 to 2030. The market research company predicts that hemp will overtake cotton in the next few years “for economic reasons, without toxins and high yield”.

A report by Global Market Estimates echoed these findings, noting that North America is expected to experience the strongest growth in hemp over the next few years, with high penetration in the textile industry due to “availability properties and feasibility of the production” of hemp.

woman wearing black v-neck t-shirt

Royal Apparel (asi/83731) offers this V-neck in viscose hemp and organic cotton for women (64030).

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“The market for hemp-derived products is growing as people become more aware of the benefits of growing hemp and the multitude of uses for hemp,” says Kriya Stevens, director of econscious (asi/51656 ), a supplier that makes sustainable and eco-friendly clothing, including its “Hemp Hero” hoodies.

She also suggests that increased consumer awareness of the benefits of industrial hemp and the expansion of legislation to grow the plant in the United States has boosted the industrial hemp market.

black hoodie

This “Hemp Hero” hoodie (EC5950,) from econscious (asi/51656) is so named for the impressive and durable qualities of hemp.

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The movement to legalize marijuana, for medical and recreational use, has also had the “interesting side effect” of making its cousin hemp also less taboo, Stevens says. Legal marijuana sales are expected to hit $33 billion this year, with 37 states and Washington, DC allowing medical marijuana, and 18 states — plus DC — legalizing recreational cannabis so far.

Dispensaries are an obvious choice for promotional clothing made from hemp, but both Brumer and Stevens say the market is much wider than that. Personal care companies, health food brands and the music industry are among those who want to put their logo on hemp clothing.

Hemp fiber has a variety of unique and eco-friendly qualities. It absorbs more carbon than it produces, grows quickly and does not require herbicides or pesticides to thrive. Compared to cotton, hemp fiber is simpler and more efficient to produce. The fiber is very popular for T-shirts because it is hard-wearing and less likely to shrink than cotton T-shirts according to the Hemp Info Guide.

Although naturally a rougher material, newer processing technology and the ability to mix hemp with other organic materials have given it a better feel and made it suitable for clothing.

“The steady transition to hemp in clothing is going to take some time to educate the consumer base that it can be super soft, super eco-friendly…and is so much better than some other plant-based textiles,” says Alexandra Ketterling, product manager for Expert Brand (asi/53404), a California-based performance and lifestyle apparel supplier that launched a line of hemp clothing a few years ago. years.

Woman wearing oversized green v-neck t-shirt

This mid crop t-shirt is part of Expert Brand’s hemp collection (asi/53404).

Arlo Estill hopes that introducing this new material to the market could even help replace oil.

“Because textiles and synthetic fibers are no good, and microplastics are filling the ocean because they don’t degrade, we need to make a big difference,” Estill says. “Hemp is also going to play an important role in mitigating the climate crisis because it grows so quickly and can sequester carbon.”

Bringing hemp home

Despite the passage of the Farm Bill, home cultivation of hemp has not yet become widespread. “One of the challenges with the product is the supply chain,” says Sion Shaman, president of Expert Brand. “As the product becomes more popular, the supply chain will pay more attention to it.”

The majority of brands producing hemp clothing source their fabrics, yarns, fibers or blanks from overseas suppliers, such as China-based Hemp Forex. California-based outdoor apparel company Patagonia and the state of Colorado hope to change that by bringing together farmers, machine makers, textile producers and hemp researchers.

Patagonia, which has a long history of sourcing hemp from Hemp Forex, has started a project called Bring Hemp Home. Jason Gonzales, chief marketing officer for Patagonia, told Hemp Industry Daily last year that the project had two goals: to increase awareness of industrial hemp and to increase the amount of hemp grown in the United States.

Even smaller hemp clothing companies like Hempsmith have a larger goal of bringing hemp home.

“There will be a day when our clothes are made just down the road, and we source the fiber from a farmer who’s just down the road, and it’s all going to be hyperlocal clothes,” says Estill, who plans to do just that by creating a homegrown hemp T-shirt. “That’s our mission: to drive the restorative economy and bring hemp home. Bring it back to Carolina.

Still, agricultural experts warn that the U.S. hemp market could take years to mature and stabilize, according to Pew Charitable Trusts. But business support on promotion and beyond as well as ongoing customer education could help this process be easier and faster.

“We all know that the clothing market is one of the most polluting in the world,” says Shaman. “I think hemp is a natural product that can combat some of that pollution, but it’s going to take a lot of people to come. … Fiber growers, yarn growers, knitters, finishers dyers, fabricators, designers, developers, all of those people have to come together and build the supply chain.

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